— Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R), in an interview with Fox News’s Sean Hannity, Feb. 16, 2021
The video above proves once again that a falsehood can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still tying its shoelaces.
As of Tuesday, 4 million households in Texas had lost electrical power amid a blast of cold weather. Fossil fuel interests and their allies in the Republican Party immediately blamed renewable energy sources and trashed the Democrats’ proposed “Green New Deal,” warning that it could produce similar outages nationwide if implemented.
On Fox News, the hosts and Abbott claimed that frozen wind turbines had brought the Lone Star State to an icy standstill. Reps. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), Dan Crenshaw (R-Tex.) and Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) made similar claims on Twitter. Some turbines did freeze — though Greenland and other northern outposts are able to keep theirs going through the winter.
The real culprit? Texas relies mostly on natural gas, and its power grid was poorly prepared to deal with severe winter conditions after years of deregulation, as energy experts told The Washington Post.
“Wind accounts for just 10 percent of the power in Texas generated during the winter. And the loss of power to the grid caused by shutdowns of thermal power plants, primarily those relying on natural gas, dwarfed the dent caused by frozen wind turbines, by a factor of five or six,” The Post reported. “At a moment when the world is awash in surplus natural gas, much of it from Texas wells, the state’s power-generating operators were unable to turn that gas into electricity to meet that demand.
“In the single-digit temperatures, pipelines froze up because there was some moisture in the gas. Pumps slowed. Diesel engines to power the pumps refused to start. One power plant after another went offline. Even a reactor at one of the state’s two nuclear plants went dark, hobbled by frozen equipment.”
Wind turbines may be “winterized” to operate in very low temperatures, but experts said Texas, which rarely confronts very low temperatures, did not invest in such preparations.
“It’s estimated that of the grid’s total winter capacity, about 80% of it, or 67 gigawatts, could be generated by natural gas, coal and some nuclear power. Only 7% of [the Electric Reliability Council of Texas’s] forecasted winter capacity, or 6 gigawatts, was expected to come from various wind power sources across the state,” the Texas Tribune reported.
When Abbott was challenged on his claim the next day, he tried to recast his remarks. “What I made clear was that the fact that if we relied solely on green energy, that would be a challenge. But in Texas, we do not rely solely on green energy. We have access to all sources of energy,” he said. (This is a false premise, as wind turbines in much colder places can be winterized, notwithstanding Texas’s inaction with theirs.)
The Pinocchio Test
That Fox News hosts and Republicans such as Abbott immediately began to falsely blame “frozen wind turbines” for a massive power outage in Texas shows yet again how quickly misinformation spreads on right-wing media. They all earn Four Pinocchios.
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